Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book 103: The Perfect Scoop

by David Lebovitz

My first encounter with Mr. Lebovitz (not personally), was with this delicious ice cream that I came upon while browsing Fine Cooking's website. And ever since then, it seems that every ice cream recipe I came across referenced this book.

How could I pass it up? I couldn't.

I have a tendency to lean toward the unusual; so when I saw this recipe for Orange-Szechwan Pepper Ice Cream I could not resist - after all I have a whole bag of these peppercorns on-hand from my Wok Wednesdays cooking group.

Szechwan (Sichuan or Szechuan) peppercorns have a unique flavor and aroma that is hard to describe. It is said that it almost has a lemon like flavor - in a way it does. Beware, they do at times (depending on the quality of your peppercorns) give a numbing sensation to the tongue when eaten. Some find this exciting, where others may find it annoying - me, I think it's interestingly cool.

My ice cream did not have the intense orange flavor I was hoping for. Unfortunately orange season has passed its peak and the oranges that were available to me were imported from Australia, and not very flavorful. All I could really taste is the peppercorns (which I like), with a very slight orange undertone. 

I would like to make this again when oranges are at their best, or maybe replace some of the milk with orange juice/concentrate or add a drop of pure orange oil. With more orange flavor this ice cream can be fabulous; I know, for I squeezed some juice over the ice cream, and it tasted great against the flavor of the peppercorns. Do make sure your oranges are prime, should you try this yourself.

There are so many interesting flavors in this book I want to try: Goat Cheese Ice Cream (my favorite cheese - I've even made a Goat Cheese Cake - it's delicious!), Green Tea Ice Cream, Fresh Fig Ice Cream, Pear Granita, Rice Gelato (think rice pudding) - the list goes on.

This book also includes recipes for mix-ins, such as peppermint patties, croquant (French for "crunchy"- made of toasted nuts covered in caramel), candied cherries, sauces, toppings, and even vessels (cookie cups, cones, meringue nests) to put your ice cream in. It's a great ice cream book - probably the only one you will need.

 Szechuan Peppercorns

 I toasted the peppercorns in my wok before grinding.
(The recipe does not call for them to be toasted.)

Peppercorns are added to a milk, cream and sugar mixture, and brought to a simmer. Orange zest is added and left to steep for one hour (off heat) at room temperature before straining, then mixed with egg yolks and the remaining cream. Chill for several hours or overnight.

Pour the chilled mixture into an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.

I ended up making an orange sauce from the juice of the leftover oranges, to which I added a dash of Grand Marnier, to drizzle over the ice cream. This was a good call.

Orange-Szechwan Pepper Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart

3 tablespoons (10g) Szechwan peppercorns
1½ (375 ml) whole milk
1½ (375 ml) heavy cream
1 cup (200 g) sugar
4 oranges, preferably unsprayed
6 large egg yolks

Coarsely grind the Szechwan peppercorns in a mortar and pestle, or place them in a heavy-duty freezer bag and crack them with a rolling pin or hammer.

Heat the milk, ½ cup (125 ml) of the cream, and sugar with the crushed peppercorns in a medium saucepan. Zest the oranges directly into the saucepan. Once warm, cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.

Rewarm the Szechwan pepper-infused mixture. Pour the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

The Perfect Scoop/David Lebovitz

1 comment:

  1. This can't be beat. Two of the most important ingredients of all time, Grand Marnier and Sichuan Peppercorns! I had a restaurateur and cooking instructor tell me once - "Put Grand Marnier on anything and it will sell". Gorgeous photos!


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